Two masked men forced their way into a home on Sycamore Avenue in Bohemia early Monday morning and shot to death owner Steven Privitera, sowing fear in a quiet neighborhood of modest dwellings on spacious lots, police said.
Privitera, 53, was a horse enthusiast, a truck driver and, according to Suffolk County police, father to at least two children.
"He was into the horses," said neighbor Vicky Nolan, 55. "He was into doing the right thing for his family."
Police said the armed home invaders shot Privitera in the abdomen after demanding money. Two other people in the home were uninjured in the shooting just before 12:30 a.m.
Authorities declined to name them or say if they were related to Privitera. Police also did not say how many times Privitera - who died at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore - was shot.
Neighbor Phyllis Wilson, 71, said Monday that she had heard nothing overnight, but her granddaughter reported a woman screaming and somebody calling out, "Has he been shot? Has he been shot?"
Her husband, Walter Wilson, 72, said he was "amazed" that such violence had struck the neighborhood.
"You always hear about it and say, 'What a shame,' but it's always somewhere else," Wilson said. "Now it's next door."
A key, and as of Monday evening unresolved, question for investigators is whether Privitera was targeted or was the victim of random violence. The uncertainty has some neighbors feeling deeply uneasy.
"This is Bohemia, my sons call it boring Bohemia," said Bob DeMott, 63, an NYPD retiree. "Nothing happens here. Now it's going to be lock the doors and all that."
Matt Cornell, an electrician living nearby, said the neighborhood is so slow that after Halloween each year, everybody has candy left over as few kids are out trick-or-treating.
"It's pretty mind-boggling for something like that to go down," said Cornell, 39. "This is a quiet spot."
Another neighbor, Annette Barbara, 42, was having friends install a home security system Monday morning.
She said she had been meaning to do so and that there had been burglaries in the area recently. The shooting prompted her to act, she said.
"That's something, obviously, we will be looking into," said Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, referring to reports of area break-ins, "but right now we are focusing on the crime scene."
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS. Callers may remain anonymous.